The Corner

Betting the Farm

I enjoy Victor Davis Hanson best when he’s writing about the California he loves and which his family has farmed for generations. Okay, “enjoy” isn’t exactly the word; it’s ineffably sad stuff. But he’s covering something that’s as relevant to the future of this nation as deficits and debt ceilings. “Where Dreams Die” concludes with a bleak list of some recent visitors to the Hanson homestead in “the center of our cry-the-beloved state”:

May 2011: two males drive in “looking to buy scrap metal.” They are politely told to leave. That night barn is burglarized and $1200 in property stolen.

Later May 2011: a female drives in van into front driveway with four males, “just looking to rent” neighbor’s house. They leave. Only later I learn they earlier came in the back way and had forced their way in, prying the back driveway gate, springing and bending armature.

Later May 2011: shop is burglarized — both bolt and padlock knocked off. Shelves stripped clean.

Victor adds:

It is the little things like this that aggravate Californians, especially when lectured not to sweat it by the academics on the coast and the politicians in Sacramento.

I can believe it. That “cry-the-beloved” line is an allusion to Alan Paton’s now mostly unread novel about South Africa. But my thoughts strayed further north, to the white farmers in post-independence Zimbabwe. First, you get some oddly determined visitors and attendant burglaries. Then, the intimidation gets ratcheted up. Your farmhands get beaten. The local authorities take down the details and do nothing. Then you or your wife and kids get beaten, or shot. You sell your land for a fraction of what you would have got a few years earlier. And, if you don’t, you get driven off it anyway. Or killed.

White Rhodesians were the planet’s favorite pariahs for a long time, so nobody cares what happens to them. But it’s strange to see the same scenario starting to play out in the Golden State – and in parts of Arizona, too. Where next? Texas? Border immigration on the scale of the south-west is not about people moving but about borders moving. Less enlightened regions of the world understand this as they understand the sun rising in the morning, but it all seems too complicated for Californian sophisticates.

Victor calls what’s happening to him “a clue to what’s ahead”. It certainly seems a safe bet that these trends will not diminish over the course of the next decade in an ever more debt-ridden state ruled by kleptocrat commissars far from the sharp end of their policy consequences. When widespread impoverishment meets demographic transformation, you’re not going to want to be standing anywhere near. I suppose his friends on the Stanford campus 180 miles away assume, consciously or otherwise, that, when it comes to their own neighborhood, they’ll be able to hold the line.

But, of course, that in turn assumes there is a line. And, as a matter of government policy, there isn’t.

Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.


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